ORLANDO, Fla. — Safeway is recognizing “a little bit of a re-emergence of optimism among shoppers” as some come back to pre-recession behavior, Michael Minasi, the retailer’s president of marketing, said during a panel discussion at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference here.
Despite the optimism, “shoppers are more active in pre-shop planning around saving money,” he said. “So these are aggressive, involved shoppers, and we need to connect with them.”
Minasi (pictured right) said his biggest concern is the uncertain economic recovery and the possibility that it may proceed more slowly than hoped. That could lead to more competitive activity around the lowest prices, “which is not a strategy for building loyalty,” he said.
Among future opportunities is the “growth potential in how we merchandise and construct traditional grocery stores to meet the current needs of shoppers,” he said, pointing to a shift in which more people are living in urban environments.
The panel, called “Competing in a Changed Retail Environment,” was moderated by Thom Blischok, president, Global Innovation and Strategy, SymphonyIRI Group, and included Donald Knauss, chairman and CEO, The Clorox Co; Jeff Martin, executive vice president, merchandising and marketing, Ahold USA; and Judy Spires, CEO, AG Supermarket Holdings.
Martin said the shopper’s outlook has changed dramatically. “It’s not just a transactional relationship, customers want to be connected to the retailer and feel we’re considering their needs,” he said. “It’s a much different shopper than before. We need to be cognizant of both upper- and lower-end shoppers and think more broadly.”
Knauss said collaboration between trading partners will solve many challenges. “We’re more optimistic,” he said. “Retailers and manufacturers who sell ideas and not items are seeing growth. We’re focusing with retail partners on how to solve consumer problems through innovative approaches.”
Spires said there are still economic concerns despite a somewhat more upbeat outlook. “Inflation will continue to help us a bit,” she said. “But customers will be careful in how they spend money. We don’t feel optimism across the board. There’s an expectation that it’s more than just a product we’re offering them, it’s an experience.”